Beyond the most superficial gestures and rhetoric of respect, compassion and sensitivity, Martin doesn’t address the sorts of lives he envisions for LGBT Catholics. Should they be celibate? Not marry? Exactly how welcome does Martin think they should be? Absent these details, Martin risks promising merely the illusion of equal dignity. LGBT Catholics don’t just want the lip service of respect, they want actual equal treatment. Either Martin doesn’t know the difference or he’s unwilling to do more than dip his toe into the subject.

Of course, if the Catholic Church treated the LGBT community with even superficial respect, compassion and sensitivity, that would be a big step — and make a significant impact on the lives of LGBT Catholics whose family members have been taught by the church to hate them and who have been taught to hate themselves. But for the church to truly respect LGBT people and their rights would require upending the sex and gender hierarchy on which the Catholic Church is largely built, a hierarchy it seems to cling to even more fiercely the more it seems antiquated in the society around it.

Martin may realize this. He ends his book with a series of biblical passages for study and, finally, a prayer of his own creation — offered for the comfort of LGBT Catholics and those who love them. “So please, God, help me remember my own goodness, which lies in you,” Martin writes. Which inadvertently points to the futility of his quest — and suggests that in addressing the problems the institutional church has caused in their lives, LGBT people must bypass the church and look directly to God.

BUILDING A BRIDGE
How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity

By James Martin

HarperOne. 150 pp. $19.99